The value of the Intellect and Reason in Islam

What value is given to reason and the intellect in Islam?

Some have claimed that Islam does not suggest there is any value to rational thought or the use of the intellect. Let us investigate this claim.


The Method of knowing right from wrong

H 24, Ch. 1, h24 Ali ibn Muhammad has narrated from Sahl ibn Ziyad from ’Isma‘il ibn Mihran from certain persons of his people from abu ‘Abd Allah, recipient of divine supreme covenant, who has said the following:  “Intelligence is the guide of a true believer.”

The Criteria on which Humanity will be judged

Hadith 1, Chapter 1, hadith 1  (The Bearers of this Hadith in consecutive order): Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Ya’qub has narrated from a number of our people of whom one is Muhammad ibn Yahya al-‘Attar who narrated from Ahmad ibn Muhammad from Hassan ibn Mahbub from  ‘Ala’ ibn Razin from Muhammad ibn Muslim from abu Ja’far, recipient of divine supreme covenant,  who has said the following:   (The Text of this Hadith): “When Allah created Intelligence He induced it to speak and said, ‘Come forward.’ Intelligence then did come forward. He then said, ‘Go back.’ Intelligence then did go back.  Thereupon Allah said, ‘I swear by My Honor and Glory that I have not created any creature more beloved to Me than you. I will not perfect you in anyone except those whom I love. I, however, will command only you to do (certain) things and prohibit only you from committing certain others. I will grant blessings (rewards) to you only and will hold only you responsible for the consequences (of your acts).’” 

H 7, Ch. 1, h7 A number of our people have narrated from Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Khalid from al-Hassan ibn Ali ibn Yaqtin from Muhammad ibn Sinan ibn abu al-Jarud from abu Ja‘far, recipient of divine supreme covenant, who has said the following: “Allah, on the Day of Judgment, will hold everyone accountable, proportionate to the degree of the Intelligence that He had given them in their worldly life.”

H 28, Ch. 1, h28  A number of our people have narrated from Ahmad ibn Muhammad from certain persons of our people in a marfu‘ manner from abu ‘Abd Allah, recipient of divine supreme covenant, who has said the following: “The Holy Prophet, recipient of divine supreme covenant, has said, ‘When you find a man who prays and fasts a great deal, do not become proud of him until you see how his Intelligence is.’


The way to recognise the true Religion


H 6, Ch. 1, h6 Ahmad ibn Idris has narrated from Muhammad ibn Hassa’n from abu Muhammad al-Razi from Sayf ibn ‘Umayra from Ishaq ibn ‘Ammar from abu ‘Abd Allah, recipient of divine supreme covenant, who has said the following:  “One who has Intelligence has religion also and one who has religion enters paradise.” 


H 20, Ch. 1, h20 Al-Husayn ibn Muhammad has narrated from Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Sayyari from abu Ya‘qub al-Baghdadi who has said the following:


 “Once ibn Sikkiyt asked Imam abu al-Hassan, recipient of divine supreme covenant, ‘Why did Allah send Moses with miracles that appeared through his staff and his hand and means of magic? Why did He send Jesus with miraculous means of medical tasks and Prophet Muhammad, recipient of divine supreme covenant, with miracles that appeared in his speech and sermons?’   “The Imam, recipient of divine supreme covenant, replied, ‘When Moses was sent, magic was very popular among the people. He showed a magic of such form that was not possible for others to perform. He was given such means that destroyed the magical effects of other people’s magic and established the truth of the message of Allah among them. Allah sent Jesus at a time when serious (chronic) illnesses existed among the people and they needed medical treatment. Jesus brought from Allah what the people did not have. He brought from Allah the means to bring the dead back to life, cure the sick and the lepers by the permission of Allah. Thus, he established the truth of the message of Allah among the people.  “Allah sent Prophet Muhammad, recipient of divine supreme covenant, at a time when oratory and speech were very popular among the people – I think he said poetry (uncertainty is from narrator). He brought to the people from Allah the good advice and wisdom that showed the falsehood in their speeches. Thus, he established the truthfulness of the message of Allah among them.’ Ibn al-Sikkiyt then said, ‘I swear by Allah that I have never seen anyone like you. What is the proof to establish the truth of the message of Allah among people today?’ The Imam then said, ‘It is Intelligence. Intelligence recognizes those who speak the truth from Allah, thus, one acknowledges their truth. Intelligence recognizes the lies of those who lie in the name of Allah,’ Ibn al-Sikkiyt then said, ‘This, by Allah, is the answer.’


Amazing Collection of Quranic Verses about the Intellect and Reason 

H 12, Ch. 1, h12 Abu ‘Abd Allah al-Ash‘ari has narrated from certain persons of our people in a marfu’ manner from Hisham ibn al-Hakam who has said the following:  


“Abu al-Hassan Musa ibn Ja’far, recipient of divine supreme covenant, said to me the following, ‘O Hisham, Allah has given good news to the people of reason (intelligence) and understanding in His book in the following words, “Give the good news to those of My servants who hear certain words but follow only the good words. These are the ones whom Allah has given guidance and they are the people of understanding.” (39:20 Holy Quran) “O Hisham, it is certain that Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most High, has made Intelligence a criterion for people (to refer to) in discerning right from wrong He supported the messengers with the (ability) to communicate and has guided them to His own Lordship with proofs saying, ‘Your Lord is the only Lord. No one deserves worship except Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.’ (2:163) “Of the signs of His existence are the creation of the heavens and earth, the alternation of nights and days, the ships that sail in the sea for the benefit of the people. (Also of such signs are) the water that Allah sends from the sky to revive the dead earth where He has scattered all kinds of animals, the winds of all directions and the clouds that are rendered for service between the sky and the earth. Such are evidence (of His existence) for those who use their Intelligence.” (2:164) 

“O Hisham, Allah has mentioned the above facts as proof of His existence and that those facts depend upon the will of One Who has designed them saying: ‘Allah has made the day and the night, the sun and the moon, and all the stars subservient to you by His command. In this there is evidence of the truth for people of understanding.’ (16:12) “It is He Who created you from clay, turning it into a living germ, then into a clot of blood, and then brings you forth as a child. He then makes you grow into manhood and become old. He causes certain ones of you to live for the appointed time and others of you to die before, so that perhaps you may have understanding.” (40:67)  “In the heavens and the earth there is evidence (of the Truth) for the believers (45:3). In your creation and in that of the beasts living on earth there is evidence of the Truth for the people who have strong faith (45:4). In the alternation of the night and the day, the sustenance, which Allah has sent down from the sky to revive the barren earth and in the changing of the direction of the winds there is evidence of the truth for the people of understanding.” (45:5) “Know that Allah brings the dead earth back to life. We have explained Our revelations to you so that you may perhaps have understanding.” (57:17) “In the earth there are adjacent pieces of land, vineyards, farms, date palms of single and many roots which are all watered by the same water. We have made some yield a better food than others. All this is evidence (of the existence of Allah) for the people who understand.” (13:4) “Also, of the evidence of His existence are His showing you lightning, which gives you fear and hope, and His sending water down from the sky, which revives the earth after its death. In this there is evidence (of the truth) for the people of understanding.” (30:24) “(Muhammad), say, ‘Allow me to tell you about what your Lord has commanded: Do not consider anything equal to Allah; be kind to your parents; do not murder your children out of fear of poverty; We give sustenance to you and to them. Do not even approach indecency either in public or in private. Take not a life, which Allah has made sacred except by way of justice and law. Thus does He command you that you may learn wisdom.” (6:151) “Allah has told you this parable about yourselves: Could your slaves share your wealth equally with you and could you fear them as you fear yourselves? Thus do We clarify the evidence (of the truth) for the people of understanding.” (30:28).  “O Hisham, Allah then has given good advice to the people of intelligence and has encouraged them to become interested in the life to come. He has said, “The worldly life is but useless amusement and childish playthings (compared to) the life hereafter which is far better and is only for the pious ones. Will you not then understand?” (6:32)  “O Hisham, Allah then has given warnings to those who do not think about the punishment that may come upon them from Allah saying, ‘Then We totally destroyed the others. (37:136) You do pass by (their ruined town) in the morning and at night (37:137) why do you then not understand?’ (37:138) “We will bring torment from the sky on this town because of the evil deeds of its inhabitants.” (29:34) ‘We left manifest evidence (of the truth) there for the people of understanding.’

 “O Hisham, intelligence comes with knowledge. Allah has said, ‘These are parables which We tell to human beings, but only the learned ones understand them.’ (29:43) “O Hisham, Allah has then expressed dislikes toward those who do not understand saying, ‘When certain people are asked to follow the revelations of Allah, they say, “We would rather follow what our fathers have followed,” even though their fathers had no understanding and could not find the true guidance.’ (2:170)   “Preaching to unbelievers is like talking to someone who cannot hear anything except yells and shouts. They are deaf, dumb, and blind; they have no understanding.” (2:171) “Certain ones of them listen to you, but are you to make the deaf hear even if they have no understanding?” (10:43) “Do you think that most of them listen and understand? They are like cattle or even more straying and confused.” (25:44) “They will not fight you united except with the protection of fortified towns or from behind walls. Their fight among them is strong. You think they are united, but in fact, their hearts are divided. They are a people who have no understanding.” (59:14) “Would you order people to do good deeds and forget to do them yourselves even though you read the Book? Why do you not think?” (2:44)

“O Hisham, Allah then has expressed dislikes towards the multitudes saying, ‘Most of the people in the land will lead you away from Allah’s guidance if you follow them; they only follow their own conjecture and preach falsehood.’ (6:116) “If you ask them, ‘Who has created the heavens and the earth,’ they will certainly say, ‘Allah has created them.’ Say, ‘It is only Allah who deserves all praise, but most of them do not know.’” (31:25) “(If you) ask them, ‘Who has sent down water from the sky to revive the dead earth?’ They will say, ‘Allah has done it.’ Say, ‘It is only Allah Who deserves all praise,’ but many of them do not understand.” (29:63) “O Hisham, Allah then has praised those fewer in number saying; ‘Only few of My servants are grateful.’ (34:13) He has said, ‘How few are they?’ (38:24) “A believing person from the people of the Pharaoh who concealed his faith said, ‘Would you kill a man just because he says Allah is my Lord?’  (40:28) “No one believed in him, except a few.” (11:40) “(Muhammad), tell them, ‘Allah certainly has the Power to show such miracles but many of them are ignorant.’ (6:37)  “Many of them have no understanding.” (5:103) “Many of them do not realize.” “O Hisham, Allah has then mentioned the people of Intelligence in the best manners with the best of characteristics saying, ‘Allah gives wisdom to whoever He wants. Whoever is given wisdom, has, certainly, received much good. Only people of Intelligence can grasp this.’ (2:269) “. . . Those who have a firm grounding in knowledge say, ‘We believe in it. All its verses are from our Lord.’ No one can grasp this fact except the people of Intelligence.” (3:7) 
 “The creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the day and the night are evidence (of the existence of Allah) for people of Intelligence.” (3:190) 

“Can a person who knows that what is revealed to you from your Lord is the truth, be considered equal to a blind person? Only those who have understanding take heed.” (13:19) 

“Can this one be considered equal to one who worships Allah during the night, prostrating and standing, who has fear of the Day of Judgment and who has hope in the mercy of his Lord?”  Say, ‘Are those who know equal to those who do not know?’ Only the people of Intelligence take heed.” (39:9) “It is a blessed Book which We have revealed for you so that they will reflect upon its verses and the people of understanding will take heed.” (38:29) “To Moses We had given guidance and to the children of Israel We had given the Book (40:53) as their inheritance and as a guide and a reminder to the people of understanding.” (40:54) “Keep on reminding them. This benefits the believers.” (51:55). “O Hisham, Allah says in His book, ‘This is a reminder for the ones who understand, listen, and see.’ (50:37) It means Intelligence. “‘We gave wisdom to Luqman (31:12),’ means: Allah gave Luqman Intelligence and understanding.  “O Hisham, Luqman said to his son, ‘Revere the truth; you will be the most intelligent among man. Cleverness in the presence of Intelligence has a very small value. My son, the world is a very deep ocean in which many people have drowned. You must take piety before Allah as a ship, faith as supplies therein, trust in Allah as the sails, Intelligence as captain, knowledge as guide and patience as passengers.’ “O Hisham, for everything there is a guide. The guide for Intelligence is thinking. The guide for thinking is silence. For everything there is a means of mobility. The means of mobility for Intelligence is humble attitude. To disobey a prohibition (of Allah) is enough proof of one’s ignorance.” “O Hisham, Allah sent His messengers to people for no reason other than their acquiring understanding about Him. Those who obey Him better have better understanding about Him. Those who are more knowledgeable in the commandment of Allah are the ones who have more powerful Intelligence, and those who have more powerful Intelligence are of a higher degree of excellence in this world and in the next life. “O Hisham, Allah has established two complete kinds of authority and criteria for people (to refer to) to discern right from wrong:  Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã The apparent, the manifest authority and criteria, and (b) the internal, the hidden authority and criteria.  “The prophets and messengers and ‘A’immah are the apparent, manifest authorities and criteria and Intelligence is the hidden, the internal authority and criterion. “O Hisham, a man of Intelligence is one whose thankfulness does not diminish because of large wealth and prohibited matters cannot overpower his patience. “O Hisham, one who supports three things against another three kinds of things he leads to the destruction of his own Intelligence: (1) Darkening of one’s ability to think with daydreaming, (2) the abolishment of the sparks of one’s wisdom with excessive bluffs and (3) the extinguishing of the lights of good lessons from experience by the desires of one’s soul. It is like supporting one’s desire to destroy one’s own Intelligence. One who destroys his own Intelligence has destroyed his own worldly life as well as the life to come. “O Hisham, how can you expect to have pure deeds before Allah when you have such things that keep you away from the facts that matter to Allah, your Lord, and you have obeyed your  desires against your own Intelligence? 


“O Hisham, maintaining patience in loneliness is a sign of the strength of Intelligence. One who has understanding about Allah keeps himself aside from the people of this world and those interested in it. He becomes interested in what is with Allah. Allah then gives him comfort in his fear and company when he is lonely. Allah gives him riches in his poverty and honor without the existence of his tribesmen. “O Hisham, truth is established to obey Allah. There is no salvation without obedience to Allah. Obedience comes only from knowledge, which comes from learning that receives strength from Intelligence. The only knowledge of value is that of one who knows about the Lord and Intelligence discerns the valuable knowledge. “O Hisham, smaller degrees of deeds with knowledge are accepted with double value, and deeds, even in great deals, of those who ignorantly follow their desires are rejected. “O Hisham, a person of Intelligence is pleased with little things of the world with wisdom, but he does not agree with a little wisdom with the entire world and, in this way, such people strike a gainful bargain. “O Hisham, the people of Intelligence stay away from what is more than the basic lawful necessities of life. How then would they not stay away from the sins in this world? To stay away from what is more than the bare necessities of life is only extra virtue but staying away from sins is obligatory. “O Hisham, a man of Intelligence observes the world and the people of the world and finds out that the worldly gains come only through hard work and labor. He finds out that gains of the life hereafter also come through hard work and labor. He then accepts the kind of gain that is more durable. “O Hisham, people of Intelligence hold themselves back from the worldly things and strengthen their interest in the gains of the life hereafter. They have learned that the worldly gains are sought after and are wanted and so also are the gains of the life hereafter. One who seeks the gains of the life hereafter the world will seek him to deliver to him his livelihood, but one who seeks the worldly gains, the hereafter would also seek to find him. Death will then approach him and it will destroy his world and leave him with no opportunity in the life hereafter (because he did not seek such achievements). “O Hisham, one who wants self-sufficiency without property, comfort for his heart from the evil of jealousy and the safety of his religion should pray to Allah, the Most Glorious, to perfect his Intelligence. The person of Intelligence is satisfied with the basic necessities and one who agrees with basic necessities is self-sufficient and free of needs. One who is not satisfied with basic necessities is never free from want. “O Hisham, Allah has stated the following on behalf of the people of virtue, who say, ‘Lord, do not cause our hearts to deviate from Your guidance, and grant us mercy. You are the Most Awarding One.’ (3:8) They know that hearts may deviate and turn toward blindness and destruction.  “It is certain that those who do not fear Allah have no understanding about Him. One who does not have proper understanding about Allah, his heart does not establish about Allah any stable knowledge of the degree of certainty whereby one with clear awareness can find and realize the fact of such quality in his heart. No one can be as such except those whose deeds confirm their words, and their privacy agrees with their public activities. This is because Allah, Sacrosanct are Whose names, has not shown what is private and unknown of Intelligence except through what is public and speaks for it. 

 “O Hisham, the commander of the true believers, Imam Ali, recipient of divine supreme covenant, has said, ‘Allah is worshipped better by no means other than Intelligence. No one’s Intelligence reaches perfection until therewith are found various qualities. Disbelief and evil should not emerge there-from. Wisdom and goodness should be expected to exist therewith. The extra of the property of a person of Intelligence is given in charity, the extra of his words are restrained and his share of the worldly things is only the basic necessities. He never considers himself to have learned enough. To be with Allah, although in a very humble state, is far better to him (a person of Intelligence) than to live very much honored with others. Humbleness is more beloved to him than being treated as a dignitary. He considers virtuous deeds of others a great deal and his own virtuous deeds as insignificant. He considers all the other people better than himself and his own self as the worst of all, and this is summing up (victory over) all things.’ “O Hisham, a man of Intelligence never speaks a lie even though it (lies) may satisfy his desires. “O Hisham, one who does not maintain honorable kindness has no religion and one cannot have such noble character without Intelligence. A person of the greatest value among people is one who does not consider the worldly gains his fortune. Nothing can become an adequate price for your body other than paradise. Do not sell (yourself) for anything other than paradise. “O Hisham, the commander of the true believers, Imam Ali, recipient of divine supreme covenant, has said, ‘Three noble qualities in man are of the signs of the existence of Intelligence.  He Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã replies when questioned, (b) speaks up only when everyone else fails to speak and (c) offers his advice when it is beneficial to his people. One who has none of these qualities is a fool.’  He also has said, ‘No one other than a person who has all of the above or a few of such qualities should chair a gathering, and if one does so without having any of such qualities is a fool.’ “Imam Hassan ibn Ali, recipient of divine supreme covenant, has said, ‘If you ask for help do so from a proper source.’ He was asked, ‘O grandson of the Holy Prophet, who are the proper sources?’ He replied, ‘They are those about whom Allah has spoken in His book saying, “Only those who have understanding will take heed and they are the people of Intelligence.’” “Imam Ali ibn al-Hussein, recipient of divine supreme covenant, has said, ‘Sitting in the company of virtuous people leads one to virtue, and association with the scholars is a means of strengthening one’s Intelligence. Obedience to the authorities that practice justice is an honor. The investment of wealth for profit is a dignifying practice. Guiding one who asks for guidance is an expression of gratitude. To restrain one’s harmful manners and deeds is the perfection of one’s Intelligence in which there is comfort for the body in the short and long terms.’ “O Hisham, a man of Intelligence does not speak to one who is feared for his calling one a liar. He does not ask for help from those that he fears may deny him. He does not count on what is not within his abilities. He does not maintain any hope in that which may involve agony and harshness. He does not take any steps toward that which he fears may not be achieved due to his inability.”

Ahmed Hilmi

Ahmed Hilmi

Ahmed is a contributor for Medina minds. He has also written the book Shield of the Believer

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